Writing About Reading: #WabtR


DigiLit Sunday

Tuesday night at 7:30 pm (EDT), you may want to check out the twitter chat Writing About Reading (#WabtR).

For the past week about 20 of “us” have been writing about reading.  The text:  A Handful of Stars but you can substitute any title and NO, you don’t have to have read the book to join the chat!


What:  On-line Book Club

Organizer: Necessary!  Ours wa Julieanne Harmatz!

Process:  Google form to solicit members

Agreement:  Read 4 chapters each day, respond to the chapters on google docs for each set of chapters, return to the documents to reread and respond to fellow readers, and participate in a chat at the end.

As a reader, I learned:

  • That I hated to stop reading to jot notes or record ideas.
  • That stopping to “record” meant that I had to reread to re-ground myself in the text.
  • That stopping at pre-set chapter ends was not comfortable when it was in the middle of story action/conflict (the pageant).
  • That I had many questions about how students responded to these same tasks/requests.
  • That it was absolutely imperative that I have CHOICE in my purpose for reading.
  • That when I “got behind” in reading and writing, I panicked and felt like I had let the entire group down.
  • That I could not read the other comments until I had posted my own ideas.
  • We all had many, many different tools that we used to process our thinking while reading.
  • That I REALLY hated to stop reading to jot notes or record ideas and even resorted to recording voice messages so that I could continue to read.
  • That I wondered about WHERE and WHEN I would do this work (Writing about Reading) out in the real world (Is it a transferable skill?)
  • That rereading for a purpose was fun and something that I often do in real life.

As a writer, I learned:

  • That I had to reread in order to write about the story, the characters, golden quotes or my thinking about reading,
  • That I had to redraft my thoughts and that also required thinking time.
  • That it was easy to comment on other’s thoughts, but I felt extremely vulnerable when sharing my own thoughts.
  • That it was VERY, VERY, VERY easy to QUIT writing!
  • That even adults respond differently to reading:  Margaret – a poem below; Julieanne – a game “Capture the Quote”; many-writing long about a jot, written notes, and drawings; and me – a digital write around based on an image.


What are the Implications for Teaching:

Choice matters!

Time matters!

Honoring many different paths is important!  

Collaboration / conversation among learners is critical!  

Teachers MUST use the same methodology they ask students to use to truly understand how the process feels (even as an adult reader)!

Being a part of a community of Readers and Writers is necessary for the success of all!

Additional Thoughts / Questions?

16 responses

  1. This was such an authentic response to the work we ask our students to do every day. The questioned you posed about “Where and how you would transfer this work to other areas” really struck me. I think responding to reading with writing is a very valuable tool when the reading, the content, the subject matter of the reading is challenging. I find writing about reading to be the most meaningful when I am motivated to learn. The writing process helps me to struggle to make the meaning I need to understand.

    1. I agree with all your ideas and especially “when I am motivated to learn. The writing process helps me struggle to make the meaning I need to understand.”

      I wonder (or worry) that students are “being required” to write every day when perhaps that’s the day that ideas just need to “Percolate” and not be public!!!

  2. The most valuable for me was doing what I ask my students to do and realizing that with a community, I could feel motivated, intimidated, scared, and bold all at the same time. I was pushed to think beyond the text and be a real reader. So much to be said about doing the work.

    1. Margaret,
      So VERY, VERY true. So many emotions from same work! ❤

  3. While I seemed have missed this opportunity to be part of a digital book club, I recently finished the book. I love and have read all of Cynthia Lords books. I have so many thoughts and ideas in relation to this text as well as Cynthia Lords other books, particularly- Half a Chance and Touch Blue. While reading and after completing A Handful of Stars, I am looking for connections and comparisons between the characters and themes.

    I would love to participate in the chat on Tuesday. Are there other places that I can write more thoughts that would be helpful to the group? Do you have another book planned?

    1. Mona,
      I hope you can join the Twitter chat next Tuesday. This chat grew out of a book purchase in NYC in June. I don’t know that we have a “next book” planned but I’m sure that could be a part of our discussion next week.

  4. Fran,
    i love your honest and passionate reactions to this process. I have to say I felt the same way. Add into it, I felt not as smart as others. Yet I also felt pushed to come up with something of value to share.

    With that said, my take away is that we need to be very cognizant what we ask students to do and how the students are grouped together. In “school life” and adult life book club work is talk based. (Could you imagine doing a book club on voxer?) Would that change our feelings about the process?

    The idea of purpose is big. This intense writing about reading is really valuable for literary essay work, but a little (lot) overwhelming to ask students to do on a regular basis (without purpose) during reading workshop. The reading workshop should be comprehension focused. The issue– how to get there. Sometimes we need to write and sometimes talk and lots of the time we need to just read.

    See you soon!

    1. Julieanne,
      Talk is so important. I was looking for a “Talk Now” button. And that reminded me of how I read Columbine – constantly texting or calling a friend who had already read it. Conversations are critical.

      Focus/purpose is also huge. I’m looking forward to our chat to hear more about how we can do this without killing the love of reading!

  5. I shared your responses to this experience, too, Fran. I’m mulling over what it all mean – the implications for my teaching, and also the type of reading responses I will be asking of my kids next year. Looking forward to this chat!

    1. Tara,
      So much to think about from this work but so glad that we tackled it as a group so we too could learn and grow!

  6. […] Tuesday night at 7:30 pm (EDT), you may want to check out the twitter chat Writing About Reading (#WabtR). For the past week about 20 of "us" have been writing about reading. The text: A Handful …  […]

  7. I found your blog by accident while searching around trying to form my PLN and getting ready to serve as a literacy coach next year. I want to incorporate this idea/plan of having teachers do what they require students to do as a way of checking in and remaining aware of what their experiences. I plan to chime in during the twitter chat tomorrow and I’d love to be a part of of your next digital book group.

    1. It will be great to have you join the chat. Providing teachers time to practice and “do” the work is critical to their success! If you’re following @jarhartz on twitter, you should see what we work on next.

  8. Wow, Fran, what you write about here really makes me think about what I ask students to do. I’ve struggled with asking students to keep a reading notebook. I KNOW it’s good for ’em, and I really do believe that writing is a great way to think, but…I don’t keep a reading notebook for myself. Even when I was a grad student, I didn’t do as much “annotation” I was supposed to do, I think. 😦 Yet I sometimes ask students to do that which I don’t like to do for myself. Hmmmm…a bit hypocritical, am I? Maybe I need to change. Maybe I need to do more writing about my reading. Maybe, like Julieanne suggested above, there is another way to accomplish the same sort of connections, but through talk? As you can probably tell, I really struggle with this one…

    Thanks for bringing that struggle back to my conscious brain as I plan for next year! Best to you.

    1. Steve,
      Reading notebooks, logs, all of those types of “accountability” writings are problematic for me. (not saying that I haven’t required them – I did) But how do we capture thinking? Where do we allow student choice? Catherine made some gorgeous Know/Wonder charts . . .but I stayed pretty much on the wonder side. . . the “why am I doing this”. We’d love to have you join our chat Tuesday night! Love to add more thoughts to the mix!

  9. […] This post covered my learning as a reader and as a writer.  I am green with envy about a friend’s report that she sat down and read the book all in one sitting.  We agreed to read and respond to four chapters a day. […]

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